chapter  30
9 Pages

Crime fiction and criminology

WithMatthew Levay

This chapter discusses criminology as an interdisciplinary assemblage of fields and practices that attempts to understand the nature of criminality through diverse, often shifting means. It explores how these practices dovetail with crime fiction’s long-standing efforts to explore criminality’s manifestation in modern society. The chapter examines the historicist perspective that crime fiction is not a straightforward reflection of criminological thought, but rather constitutes a unique form of popular criminology indebted to key developments in the discipline while at the same time exposing them to critique. Criminology and crime fiction are both messy concepts, and in their messiness are vital to our understanding of how crime manifests and how society perceives that manifestation. Probably the most notable aspect of criminology’s influence on crime fiction arises in the representation of the detective, figured in the nineteenth century as a heroic avatar of logic, empiricism and public safety. Contemporary crime fiction is equally absorbed in sociological approaches that emphasise race, environment and economics.